Archive for the ‘Gray Brothers’ Tag

The Hamilton – Hamilton and Davie

The Hamilton

Here’s another of the warehouses built on the land released by the CPR which came to be called Yaletown. This is on the corner of Davie and Hamilton – here we’re seeing the side that doesn’t have the raised platform that was built at the height of the railcars that lined up down the street. From the Building Permits made available by Heritage Vancouver, we think we’ve worked out the history of the building. There’s a permit for a three storey brick pier warehouse in January 1913, designed and built by builder George Baker for the Gray Brothers. Then later that same year there’s another permit for George Baker to build a two storey brick addition to a warehouse, designed by Thomas Hooper, once again for the Gray Brothers. The address is gives as 1198 Helmcken – which is distinctly odd as Helmcken Street ends at the 900 block. If the clerk had meant to record 1198 Hamilton, then that fits this building, and explains how a three storey building is today a five storey structure. It also suggests Thomas Hooper may well have been responsible for the design of the whole thing. One reason we think this is more likely is because even when George Baker was building a warehouse for his personal ownership elsewhere in Yaletown, he hired an architect to design it. Baker has arrived in Canada from England in 1889 and in 1911 was living at his home at 835 10th Avenue with his New Brunswick-born wife, three daughters and two nieces.

There were two Gray Brothers. J Russell Gray (he was christened John, but apparently known as Russell) emigrated to Canada in 1906. That was the year he married his Canadian wife, Ada. His brother Donald probably arrived a few years later, although we don’t know for sure as Donald somehow avoided filling in the census. Both were from Scotland, born in Rutherglen in Lanarkshire. Their father was also John Russell Gray (which may be why Russell was known by his middle name). Their first appearance in the City Directories is in 1907, when J Russell Gray is living at 1339 Barclay (a house he stayed in for several years) and John R Gray, retired, is at 850 Broughton Street. A year later Mr Gray senior is no longer retired, but an advisory Director with the Dominion Trust Company, while Mr Gray junior is working for Coast Quarries. In 1909 Donald has arrived and is living with his father, and both Donald and Russell are associated with their new company, Gray Brothers.

In 1996 the building was converted to residential use on the upper floors, designed by Howard, Yano Partners. Renamed The Hamilton, it’s one of the more sensitive conversions, retaining the original glazing and avoiding adding balconies or residential details.

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E13.25

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The Gray Block – Homer Street (1)

Gray Block 1206 Homer 1928

There are a number of buildings associated with two brothers who are sometimes referred to as Grey – but whose name was actually Gray. They only arrived in Vancouver in 1906, but they quickly established themselves as investment advisers and developers of some substantial industrial buildings.

Vancouver’s warehouse district until the turn of the 20th Century was along Water Street and near the waterfront. By the early 1900s it was overcrowded and unable to absorb the demand for new larger warehouses, especially with rail access. The Canadian Pacific Railway opened up the wooded area below Homer Street next to their False Creek yards for warehouse development. With rail tracks laid into the streets and loading docks lining the western edge of each block the new area was purpose-built for efficient freight handling. The new warehouse district became known as Yaletown after the early settlement established nearby by the CPR men brought down from the town of Yale in the Fraser Canyon when the railway’s repair shops were moved to the end of the line in Vancouver.

The Gray brothers built several buildings in this newly available area, and here’s one of the bigger warehouse buildings in the area, a 1912 structure generally attributed to Thomas Hooper, but which we think was designed by H S Griffith. (That’s what the building permit says – we think the Hooper building was another Gray Brothers development). The six and seven storey concrete structure had several tenants when it opened – Office Specialty Mfg Co, Barber-Ellis Ltd (who later moved a little further down the road), the United Photographic Stores and Western Cloak and Suit Co. By 1920 Barber-Ellis are still there along with Western Cloak and Suit Co, and the other tenants are Carstens Ltd, wholesale tailors and Crawford Storage, as well as Gray Brothers themselves.

By 1928, when our photograph was taken, (in the middle of US prohibition) Barber-Ellis had been joined by His Masters Voice, Beach Foundry Limited and Joseph Kennedy Ltd, described as brewers and bottlers, whose headquarters were in the building. While bearing the name of the wealthy US industrialist (and father of the future President) the company was actually controlled by the Reifel family. A report of the Royal Commission on Customs and Excise published in the year the photograph was taken stated that the sole business of Joseph Kennedy Ltd was exporting alcohol into the US (and the picture shows that they were not exactly hiding their presence in the building). They were accused of forging US Revenue stamps, and the separate but closely related Kennedy Silk Hat Cocktail Co (whose offices were in the same building) were also accused of smuggling. The Kennedy in question was no relation to the eastern family with political aspirations, but rather Daniel Joseph Kennedy who was probably born in Nebraska, moved to Saskatchewan and eventually moved to Vancouver around 1918. He initially created a series of products that skirted the newly adopted prohibition rules, while maintaining a ‘healthy’ dose of alcohol. Later he marketed pre-mixed cocktails – export (to the US, not necessarily legally) was more important than importing.

Later in its life the building became the home of tea and coffee importers Murchies, who would stay long after many other companies had moved out of the area, until 1996. John Murchie arrived from Scotland in 1894, and initially established his business in New Westminster, but expanded into their new Vancouver premises after the 1950s. Once they moved out of the area to Richmond, Howard Bingham Hill designed the conversion of the upper floors to strata apartments, completed in 1997.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu N288

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